Moroccan human rights organizations have lashed out at what they described as "inhumane" rituals practiced in the popular Bouya Omar shrine, known for its exorcism activities where patients are brutally beaten, starved, and chained in attempts to drive out evil spirits from their bodies.
Bouya Omar means Father Omar and it refers to a revered person whose shrine is one of the most famous around the Kingdom. Rights activists in Morocco, however, are pushing for the shrine to be closed, arguing it is the best way to put an end to the violations that take place inside it and to protect patients from being manipulated and deceived into thinking they will be cured that way.
Many families take their members who suffer from mental andor psychological disorders to the shrine and leave them there to be cured.
"There they are chained and beaten under the pretext that these practices, together with the blessing of the wali (revered Omar), will cure their mental and psychological ailments," Abdul-Salam Adeeb, head of the Association Marocaine des Droits Humains (AMDH), told AlArabiya.net.
The rights activist and AMDH member also condemned what he termed as "Bouya Omar violations", calling upon human rights organizations in Morocco to join forces and fight this problem.
"We have to put pressure on the government and on concerned officials to close down the shrine and refer its patients to specialized rehabs," he added.
Khaled Cherkaoui Smouni, President of the Centre Marocain des Droits de l'Homme (CMDH), revealed that some of the patients actually died after being confined for months, and sometimes years, inside the shrine while others sustained permanent deformities.
"This is in addition to the psychological damage," Smouni told AlArabiya.net. "Some go to the shrine with minor psychological problems, but after staying for a long time inside the shrine, they develop severe disorders that are hard to deal with clinically."
Smouni further expressed surprise that the authorities have not interfered and that the shrine still receives patients despite all complaints.
Residents of the shrine usually display violent and aggressive behavior, which explains why families flock there and why they do not object to the brutality the patients are subjected to, psychologist Abdul-Majid Komi told AlArabiya.net.
"The families are spared the trouble of caring for their sick, especially that shrine shelters them for a long time and that hospitalization costs much more," he said.
Komi added that those in charge of the shrine take advantage of the families' tendency to relinquish responsibility and at the same time those families reject calls by rights organizations to close the shrine.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)